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Whats in a name?

Have you ever wondered why the upstairs hall is called The Menorah Hall ?


Our family joined RBRS (as it was) in 1983 having moved to Radlett from Paris, where we were members at Rue Copernick. Previously we had been members at Finchley Reform for 8 years, and Leeds Sinai for all of 6 months!

Our children  (Ian ,Sara & Debbie) were 9, 10  and 3 years old.

We were astonished to find that the village church had just been bought by a Reform Synagogue based in Bushey, and I phoned from Paris in delight to say that we were moving here and wished to join.

My husband, Jon, and I immediately joined the choir, and I took children’s services on Shabbat morning when the previous incumbent retired. As a junior school teacher, I was soon asked to teach at the Cheder. So we had an instant involvement with the synagogue community, which led to many staunch friendships.
Since those days I have at various times been on Council, Ritual, Education, House  & Social Committees, run the Library for 8 years, edited the magazine (Shofar) for 5 years, helped Rabbi Barbara Borts to set up the Radlett Council of Christians & Jews, taken school visits in the shul, and been a general tea-maker and chair-shifter at many events.  Oh …and represented RBRS on The Board of Deputies for 10 years, and said the Jewish Prayers at the Mayor’s Induction Service in Watford when Rabbi Alex was unable to attend.

Meanwhile Jon  ran the Social Committee, played the old church organ to accompany the choir, helped on the House/Building  Committee, and then became Chairman for 3 years….
Jon was determined to update the building which had been in a sad state when we bought it. The dark oak flooring was sanded to a light honey-colour and the old pews replaced with the chairs we now have. This enabled us to hire out the main hall/sanctuary to provide an income which helped repair the leaking rooves & ancient boiler. Jon – an avid D.I.Y. man – persuaded some loyal members of the community to decorate the sanctuary with him, so that it became a light, pleasant prayer house. At the same time the camerarderie of the workers was a great social binder.  However, the use of hired scafolding by these game volunteers would not be allowed by our Health & Safety rules these days!

The next job was to replace the infrastructure behind the sanctuary with a larger, modern, water-tight extension.
This beautiful design by Simone Bloom is the existing 2 – story building which now houses our offices, library, kitchen and halls on both levels.

Before  Jon’s chairmanship, we had been instrumental with Barry Hyman in helping to establishing a link with Grodno, Belarus.
I had joined the Reform Movement’s  EXODUS committee,  and was editing its magazine and we started writing to members of the Menorah Community. After two years we felt that meeting face-to-face was the only way to truly cement the relationship, and allow us to see for ourselves what we could do to help this fledgling kehillah.

So we decided to visit Ira & Mischa and the Menorah members. They were a young group, so we took  17 year-old Debbie with us, and also my father who had learned Russian and went as our translator. What an eye-opener that visit was! The poverty and backwardness of Belarus was a huge shock. We arranged a subsequent visit more members joining us – for them to see what was needed to support Menorah. Two years later we organised a group of teenagers from RBRS to travel out with us and establish links with the Belarussian youngsters. Then it was time for Ira & Mischa to visit us. To our surprise, they wanted us to arrange a Jewish wedding for them!  This became another chance for our own Community to benefit, as the chuppah,  flowers, wardening, choir, entertainment and food were all provided by our volunteers.

Finally, the new extension was completed and  some large donors were recognised by having a plaque in memory of their loved ones. The halls had no specific donors, but the succeeding Honorary Officers  honoured Jon’s role in the new building by asking us if we would like to choose a name for the hall.
We therefore chose The Menorah Hall as a way for the Community to continue the synagogue’s involvement with our friends in Grodno.

In 2007, Jon sadly died at the age of 61, and once again he was greatly  honoured by the naming of the downstairs hall as The Jon Young Hall.  This was particularly appropriate, since (amongst other works) he had built the hatch to the kitchen with his own hands!

So when you are next in the Menorah Hall, you will notice that pictures from Grodno are mainly there. And in the Jon Young Hall you will  now view differently the hatch to the kitchen!

Lana Young

Mon, 27 January 2020 1 Sh'vat 5780